Sunday, January 23, 2005


I've never read The Blank Slate, and I try not to comment too much on things I haven't seen/read/etc... But, in all of the commentary on it I've been amazed at how silly the whole book sounds -- it exists in an alternative universe where numerous straw men of Pinker's creation actually exist.

Echidne informs us that Pinker seems to think the gender wage gap is something not seriously studied by economists. This mirrors the frequent assertions that academics are too scared to study the impact of race on various life outcomes, and thus bold folks like Murray are forced to do the dirty work. It's bullshit in both cases, but there's nothing like pretending you're Bold and Controversial and Suffering Under the Tyranny of Women and Minorities who are Preventing the Truth From Coming Out to sell books.

Another disturbing thing is that Pinker doesn't rely on peer-reviewed high level work by academic economists, but on right wing hack work. This is another area where our side suffers from the much discussed hack gap. One reason think tank publications get wider discussion than academic work is that it's more accessible. It's written with a more mainstream audience in mind, and since it's unencumbered by requirements to address alternative theories, it doesn't cloud the beautiful minds of journalists looking for a simple story.

If *I* had some money thrown at me to start a think tank-type organization, what I would do is set up a foundation which would provide grant money to liberalish academics which would free them up to spend some time marketing their research to a more mainstream audience.